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The machinations of Heidegger

Saturday, 30 Jan 2021

Heidegger on Dr John Dunn. The age of technology, according to Heidegger, presents the real to us as raw material. This era is, for him, the completion of metaphysics, the end-game of Western thought since Plato.

He saw history as an epochal decline of what it means ‘to be,' culminating in our age of technology in which ‘to be’ means ‘to be raw material for the self-enhancing technological system’.

Heidegger understood the twentieth century to be the final stage of the Greek way of understanding being, as humanity entered a new uprooting phase. However, there was a positive counterpart to the nihilism and lack of perspective in the uprootedness.

Heidegger saw in this end-game the possibility of a new beginning, free of metaphysics - in short, a new way of being. Technology represented the completion of metaphysics and the calculative thinking itself with which it is associated.

Machination (Machenschaft) was the expression chosen by Heidegger to define the essence of technology, later replaced by Gestell. Machination in this context highlights how in the technological stage of history we understand the real as ‘makable’. ‘Machen’ means ‘to make’, i.e to make from the raw material that is the world, including human resources.

To live ‘worldless’ was for him the consequence of machination. In Heideggerian terms, we now live in the era of technological uprooting so to speak, with a worldless lifestyle.

The contemporary technological thinking has caused an uprooting process, removing references to time and place as evidenced, for example, by contemporary historians who speak of the past in the present tense.

Heidegger’s thesis is that in the age of technology we measure and calculate everything, as all metaphysical references crumble.

The resultant deconstruction of ultimate authoritarian metaphysical thought systems means that philosophers can no longer claim to point the way to truth. Heidegger believed that this epoch of machination marked the end of philosophy, giving mankind the opportunity to experience a new authentic way of being that is not determined by an inherited logocentric way of thinking.

He was wrong in this idealistic and naive belief. The truth is that deconstruction has evolved into a new logocentrism.

I think that he eventually saw the truth of this, and that he thought that ‘only a god’ could save us from it, the ‘god’ being an alternative onto-theology.

© John Dunn.

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